Idaho officials hope to create first international dark sky reserve in U.S.

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Adventure Journal - This fall, a group of local and federal officials and members of the Idaho Conservation League will apply to designate 1,400 square miles in south-central Idaho an international dark sky reserve. It would be the first in the United States, and would protect the Sawtooth National Forest with the support of surrounding towns Ketchum, Sun Valley, and Stanley. The area’s skies already draw tourism—large crowds descended upon the towns and wilderness for the eclipse in August. Year-round stargazers can see a night sky so clear that the Milky Way’s interstellar dust clouds are visible.
 
International dark sky reserves and international dark sky parks (of which there are nearly 40 in the U.S.) are designated by the International Dark Sky Association, a non-profit based in Tuscon, Arizona. Dark sky parks are easier to come by than reserves, because reserves call for an area of more than 270 square miles that meets a criteria of sky quality and natural darkness that the cast majority of the contiguous United States can not provide. Just 11 of these reserves exist globally.
 
According to 2016’s New World Atlas of Light Pollution, one of the most thorough studies of light pollution, 80 percent of the global population and 99 percent of United States and European populations live under a haze of light pollution. More than one third of the world’s population can’t see the Milky Way from home, including 80 percent of North Americans.
 
Local leaders have been working for several years to apply to the International Dark Sky Association this fall for reserve status. Beyond the size and light pollution criteria, a reserve must consist of two parts: a core protected area and a surrounding area that supports and maintains the values of the reserve. That means residents and businesses in the nearby towns and and the core area itself will commit to specific lighting requirements like hooded lights, less-polluting LEDs, and curfews that protect the area from light pollution. Read more..
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